For years, pundits have argued the EPL is a boring league because of the concentration of talent at the top.
Like MLB, the EPL allows teams to spend as freely as they like, meaning billionaire American businessmen and Russian oil tycoons can stockpile the best players like rations in a nuclear fallout shelter. In case of emergency (or injury), they can just pop another superstar out of the box (new signing bonus smell!) and into the roster.
Well, there’s deplorable teams like Derby who exist simply to be toyed with and then crushed by the big powers. No salary cap means no parity, and no parity means only one of four or so teams really have a shot at the title every year. The rest can play for berths in the big continental tourneys, but the English league title won’t be a possibility for about 75% of the league every year.
But even the Big Four of the EPL lately looks more like a Big Two. American businessman and owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Malcolm Glazer, and Russian billionaire entrepenuer, Roman Abromovich, have tranformed Man U and Chelsea respectively into all-star squads.
While Arsenal has always been getting more done with less, and Liverpool is largely reliant on the play of Captain Steven Gerrard, Man U and Chelsea have so many playmakers that their bench could start for almost any other team in the world.
For instance, at yesterday’s match with Newcastle, Chelsea had the following players on the bench at the start of the match: Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Ashley Cole, Claude Makelele and Salomon Kalou. It’s fair to say that these fellas wouldn’t all be on the bench at once for any other team in the world, other than perhaps Man U, unless they were all injured, serving suspension or simply still too hung over from the previous night’s revelry.
Man U, meanwhile, has, without a doubt, the most impressive collection of Galacticos in the world, including the reigning world’s greatest player Cristiano Ronaldo. When you pair Ronaldo with Rooney and Tevez, it starts to be almost unfair. This team is so nasty, they really only lose when they beat themselves.
So, both Man U and Chelsea are now tied for the EPL title with one game to play, and they are both preparing to meet in the Champions League final.
Both have a chance to pull off the rare double, and both have been playing some of their best soccer lately.
So, who wins?
The EPL title, I think will go back to Old Trafford. Man U should surgically dismantle Wigan on Sunday, and with its goal differential lead, I doubt they will cede the title to Chelsea.
But the Champions League? I like Chelsea. Why? Well, they seem to thrive more on the bigger stages. Ballack and Essien are undeterred by pressure and undeniably one of the best tandems in the midfield in the world, and I think Man U’s immaturity and ego could get the better of them. As great as Ronaldo is as a player, as a leader on the pitch he still needs to develop.
Regardless of how it plays out, one cannot deny that Man U and Chelsea have elevated their play even above that of Arsenal and Liverpool.
While that is great for their billionaire owners and legions of fans, it could be bad for the overall state of competition in a league trying to expand its brand across the globe.